Moorefield knew its chances of pulling an upset over No. 10 Greenbrier West in a Class A contest Tuesday night at the Big Atlantic Classic came down to stopping the Cavaliers’ big man.
Starting center Josh Martin — by far the biggest player on the floor at 6-foot-7 — scored just nine points, but his replacement, Zach Johnson, took over.
The senior — who was also an all-state lineman on the Greenbrier West football team and wrestles on the weekend — came off the bench and scored 19 points to help the Cavaliers (9-2) overcome a 9-point deficit and win 66-61.
“I think (Martin) really helps me,” said Johnson, who’s listed as 6-4, 250 pounds. “He’s so tall, and teams have to focus on him. That leaves me open in the lane.”
Johnson, who played most of the second half at the power forward spot on the floor at the same time as Martin, was able to get good position on the Yellow Jacket defenders assigned to guard him all game, and the Cavalier guards fed him the ball. Johnson was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field and converted 5 of 6 free-throw attempts.
“We’ve got six seniors, and they’ve been together the last four years,” said Cavalier head coach Joey Fitzwater. “Some of them don’t start, but they all play a role, and guys can come off the bench to help us.”
Despite Johnson’s efforts, Moorefield (6-7) played from in front for most of the game.
After taking a 17-16 lead on a Garrett Keller baseline jumper just before the horn sounded to signal the end of the opening quarter, the Yellow Jackets didn’t trail again until midway through the fourth quarter.
Moorefield led 29-25 at halftime, 49-44 after three and 54-48 with 6:15 to play. Its largest lead was with 4:46 to play in the third, 38-29.
Keller was the Yellow Jackets’ best offensive weapon, scoring 21 points, including a pair of long 3-pointers. Lance Taylor also had a big game, overcoming his smaller frame with his athletic moves to score 13 points, mostly against the tall trees in the lane for Greenbrier West.
The Cavs, though, continued to hang around, winning the rebound battle 33-28 and finding some second-chance points. Martin pulled down a game-high 14 boards and blocked six shots, and Brandon Gwynn scored 14 points on the strength of three 3-pointers.
West was finally able to tie the game at 54-all with 5:07 to go when Martin was fouled and hit the first of a pair of free throws. More importantly, Keller picked up his fifth foul, and the Moorefield offense suddenly went cold with its shooter watching from the bench.
The Cavs took their first lead since the opening quarter when Colby Ennis battled for a putback basket, and West never trailed again on its way to the five-point victory.
“We just kept battling,” said Fitzwater. “It was a great effort.
“We mixed up our defenses and made some shots down the stretch. We hit a lot of big free throws.”
West will take on Tygarts Valley in the Class A championship game tonight at 9 p.m.
“I think their size will match up a little better with us, so it should be a great game,” said Fitzwater. “If we could win the Big Atlantic, it would be a great way to get ready for (the postseason).”
Moorefield will play Valley in the consolation game at 3:45 p.m. today.
— E-mail: chuffman@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
Dakota Vetter 0 1-2 1, Garrett Keller 9 1-1 21, Jared Kite 2 0-0 4, Adam Snyder 4 0-0 8, Lance Taylor 5 3-4 13, Aaron Cole 3 0-0 7, Austin Williams 1 0-0 2, Jackie Burton 1 2-6 5. Totals 25 7-13 61.
Greenbrier West (9-2)
Corey Cox 2 0-0 4, Alex Hendrix 4 1-1 9, Brandon Gwynn 4 3-4 14, Colby Ennis 3 0-3 6, Josh Martin 4 1-2 9, Austin Ransom 0 0-0 0, Chris Gabbert 0 0-0 0, Zach Johnson 7 5-6 19, Jared Jennings 1 3-6 5. Totals 25 14-22 66.
M 17 12 20 12 — 61
GW 16 9 19 22 — 66
3-point goals — M: 4 (Keller 2, Cole, Burton). GW: 2 (Gwynn 2). Fouled out: M(Keller).